How Do Smoke Curtains Work

Smoke curtains are essential in preventing the spread of smoke during a fire, which can save lives and lower repair costs. But how do they work?

fire-rated doors glass panels 5


Smoke curtains are an innovative solution for redirecting toxic smoke safely out of extraction points in the building. Ingenious in its simplicity, they have now become an important part of fire mitigation and extinguishment measures, thanks in large part to their proven success in minimizing the damage and loss of life caused by fires.

Numerous studies and investigations conducted across several years reveal that toxic smoke inhalation causes more fire-related deaths than the fires themselves. Therefore, it becomes crucial to minimize the harmful, and often deadly, effects of smoke accumulation and inhalation.

This is where the practicality and utility of smoke curtains come to the fore. But before we dive into how smoke curtains battle smoke, let’s take a closer look at what a smoke curtain actually is.

What Are Smoke Curtains? How Do They Work?

As the name suggests, smoke curtains are a barrier to smoke. They serve as protective covers from smoke and the consequences that arise from it.

Smoke curtains prevent the movement of smoke and heat from one fire zone to another either through blockage or by way of channeling or pushing smoke towards smoke extraction points planned in a building.

When it comes to installation and deployment, smoke curtains offer considerable flexibility. A smoke curtain can be installed in almost any area of the building and is suitable for virtually all types of building architecture.

They are commonly used within schools, offices, retail premises, hospitals, residential buildings, universities, airports, hotels and more due to their inconspicuous appearance and minimal footprint: They are hidden above openings so they don’t interfere with a building or room’s aesthetics.

Smoke curtains remain retracted in their hidden housings until they are activated by an alarm, a detector signal or a manual switch. Once triggered, they are designed to descend into their operational position.

Smoke curtains offer greater flexibility for designers and architects since they can encase open areas without the need for load-bearing walls, pillars or other structural items in the design. Plus, they are easily hidden in the ceilings so they won’t ruin a beautiful design.

Due to these properties, smoke curtains can be used for a variety of safety purposes.

How Can Smoke Curtains Be Used?

1. Elevator Curtains

Elevator smoke curtains are housed in the ceiling above the elevator. Their primary purpose is to seal off the elevator shaft so smoke can’t disperse to the other levels of the building. This keeps smoke damage contained to a single floor or area.

2. Vertical and Horizontal Smoke Curtains

Vertical smoke curtains are often used in doorways, wide or small, to prevent smoke from traveling to another area of the building. They are used to keep smoke out of an occupied area, allowing occupants to evacuate safely and firefighters to enter more easily. In the same vein, horizontal smoke curtains are used to block smoke from traveling upwards or downwards to other floors.

3. Draft Smoke Curtains

Draft smoke curtains form an integral part of the smoke control system. They are strategically installed throughout the structure to guide the smoke from occupied areas to designated spaces or vents. Smoke curtains serve a vital role in pushing the toxic fumes from a fire through the pre-planned path of least harm, thus minimizing the probability of any casualties occurring due to smoke inhalation.

4. Atrium Smoke Curtains

Some structures have an open atrium, which can cause smoke to quickly and easily travel to the connected floors above or from one of the upper floors into the atrium and down to the connected floors below. As a result, all the smoke from the floors can end up cumulatively in the atrium. In atriums, smoke curtains serve an important role in ensuring that the smoke in the building is safely chauffeured out into harmless spaces.

Smoke Curtains: The Advantages

1. Invisible Design: When not deployed during an emergency situation, smoke curtains are virtually invisible as they recede into ceilings or walls of the structure.

2. Minimal Installation Hassle: Smoke curtains occupy a fairly thin area, and don’t require any complicated mechanisms and machinery for installation. Due to the lack of large space and structural enforcements needed, the installation of smoke curtains is done with minimal hassle.

3. Tamper Proof: Since smoke curtains are virtually invisible, they are safely out of physical reach from occupants which helps keep them free from tampering or reduction in performance.

These advantages make smoke curtains one of the most sought out options for enhancing protection from fire and smoke as they seamlessly combine ease with safety.

Smoke Curtains: The Limitations

In spite of the various merits of smoke curtains, they do come with some limitations that warrant the installation of supplementary fire and safety equipment for maximum security.

While smoke curtains manage smoke effectively, they can’t withstand direct flames for long periods of time, as they are designed to handle temperatures only up to around 1000ºF (600ºC), which is where the importance of fire curtains and other fire-extinguishing measures come into play. However, this issue can be addressed by installing hybrid curtains, which are built to handle both smoke and fire at much higher temperatures.

Nonetheless, the limitations should not detract you from the level of protection, safety and ease of installation that smoke curtains offer. Tactical deployment and regular maintenance of smoke curtains (along with other fire and safety equipment) installed in your premises is the best way to tackle and negate the threats caused by fire and smoke.

Click here to contact SG Specialties to help choose the right smoke curtains for your needs. Or if you just simply want to know more about how to enhance fire and smoke safety, check out our extensive blog.